Developing Relationships

Hart Construction
Written by Claire Suttles

Hart Construction specializes in design-build, new construction, building renovation and rehabilitation, and tenant finish out. Based in Searcy, Arkansas, with branch offices in Little Rock and Memphis, the company operates throughout the region, with recent projects in Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi as well as Arkansas.
Hart Construction handles a wide variety of projects, from retail shopping centers and restaurants to healthcare facilities and convenience stores. Many of these jobs are for high profile, national clients including Arby’s, The Vitamin Shop, FedEx, Joann Fabric and Craft Stores, Pizza Hut, Petsmart, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Tropical Smoothie Café, Mattress Firm, Aspen Dental, Panera Bread, Dollar Tree, Firestone, T.J. Maxx, and Starbucks.

The team’s ability to forge strong relationships with nationally recognized clients has catapulted Hart Construction to success. “We’ve been very successful in building relationships, especially relationships with national clients,” says Founder and Principal Adam Hart. “We are very aggressive in going after clients and projects. We have a team that has a lot of enthusiasm for going after projects that we feel we can be successful on.”

That enthusiasm is certainly paying off. “Last year we were able to do around $30 million in construction,” Mr. Hart shares. “The year prior to that, we did about $16 million. So there was significant growth there by utilizing developer and national retailer relationships. That has been a very important part of our growth and we have been blessed to have that opportunity to build more projects and larger projects the past year.”

When Mr. Hart launched the company in the mid-90s, the original focus was on commercial tenant finish out and insurance restoration projects. Jobs were relatively small, primarily restoring property damage due to fire or flooding. Mr. Hart saw more potential in commercial construction and soon began to steer the company in that direction. “We moved into courting clients and developing relationships within the industry, mostly at large retail, office, and industrial property management companies and real estate brokerage firms,” he recalls. By 2005, after a little more than a decade in business, the small startup had successfully made the transition to a multifaceted firm, establishing a solid track record throughout the region and earning a name for itself.

Hart Construction continues to work hard to cultivate client relationships and secure future growth. About three years ago, Bradford Gaines came on board as Director of Business Development, a position that was created to focus exclusively on client relationships and business development. The addition was a great fit and the company quickly opened up an office in Memphis, Tennessee so that Mr. Gaines could strengthen the firm’s relationships with local developers. “[There is] a huge office and industrial market in Memphis,” Mr. Hart explains.

Hart Construction continues to expand, opening up yet another office six months ago, this time to serve northwest Arkansas. “Our relationships with retailers and food and beverage groups led us more and more to the northwest corner of the state. So we made the decision to go ahead and put an office in northwest Arkansas and have boots on the ground.” The team already has multiple projects underway in the area and a substantial list of retail and healthcare projects in the planning stages. With a corporate headquarters in Searcy and new branch locations springing up, Hart Construction has its customers covered. “We’ve got a good mix of team members and office locations at this time to handle all aspects of our customers’ needs in each area of the state and beyond,” Mr. Hart reports.

Market demand is pushing Hart Construction to increase its footprint beyond its home base of Arkansas. “We have created relationships with multiple national and regional developers on the retail side of commercial real estate, and those relationships have made it necessary for us to go beyond the boundaries of the state of Arkansas,” Mr. Hart explains. “We currently do projects in every state surrounding Arkansas as well as occasionally doing projects that are further out.” For example, the team just started a project in Garden City, which is located in western Kansas, a ten hour drive from Searcy. “As we feel we can serve our clients well and create successful construction projects, we will look at projects that are farther out,” Mr. Hart says.

Hart Construction is increasing its services as well as its geographical footprint. The company recently brought an architect on board and is in the process of developing an in-house design department. “We thought it would take multiple years to develop this, but the growth of our design department has really exploded over the course of the last three months,” Mr. Hart reports. Now the company is able to offer clients a complete, in-house design service “which helps move the project along at a faster pace and [allows] us to work hand in hand with the owners to come up with value engineering options for their projects.” This comprehensive design service often results in a reduction in the project cost and can also help clients determine the feasibility of a project. “When the client is exploring the feasibility of a project, it helps to be able to produce a preliminary design drawing that our estimating department can use to put together a simple project budget and assist the owner in making some financial decisions and some business decisions on a particular deal,” says Mr. Hart.

The team continues to work closely with clients throughout the construction process, offering guidance on everything from navigating the municipal approval process to finding the right civil engineers and surveyors. “That is a competitive advantage that we have; a developer can come to us at the front end of a project and we can take them from a napkin sketch idea to turning over the keys to a completed project. That is a definite niche that we have hit that sets us apart from the competition.”

From the beginning to the end of a project, the team strives for transparency and open communication. “We try to show them all the numbers when we are bidding the project, so they know exactly what they are getting for their money and they know where all those costs come from,” Mr. Hart says. The team utilizes a web based project management program that allows clients to stay fully abreast of a project’s progress during construction via photos and reports. For example, “a developer in Dallas can log in and see a project in Oklahoma City and get a daily update for the project,” Mr. Gaines says. “We continue to focus on being transparent and on customer service for our clients.”

With so much growth already accomplished, the team plans to stick to the strategies that have brought success thus far. “I think our future growth model is to continue to grow organically from our relationships with developers and national clients,” Mr. Gaines reports. The team predicts ongoing growth in Arkansas and western Tennessee as they expand their client base in those areas. There will also be expansions a bit farther afield. “In the next five years, I really see us pushing into the Dallas/Fort Worth market, the Oklahoma City/Tulsa market and the Springfield/Joplin area in Missouri,” says Mr. Gaines. “There are a lot of opportunities there and we are relying on our client relationships to take us there and help us grow.”



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